Monday, February 22, 2016

Using Class Olympics to Motivate Students in ACT Practice

By: Rachel Barry

First off, I love the Olympics.  I believe that the Olympics motivates and unites people of various backgrounds in a common goal.  I enjoy the multitude of events, the rivalry and comradery of athletes, the interactions of people from multiple countries...I could go on and on.    So I thought, "Why not bring this to my classroom?"  

Now, I should preface this by noting that I have already tried implementing the Olympics in my classroom four years ago.  The first time around, I will be honest, I bit off more than I can chew.  I gave too many ways for students to win medals, I switched groups too often, and it became very cumbersome to keep up with.  

This year, I decided to develop the Winter Olympic Games focused around our weekly 10 ACT questions.  As part of our curriculum, we have created one set of 10 standardized-test questions for each of our skills.  Throughout first semester, students completed these either on paper or the Socrative app, but I could sense that students were getting bored by these methods.  This is why I chose to develop the Winter Games around these ACT questions, to re-engage my students when heading into the ACT.

For the Games, I placed students into groups based on EPAS scores, so that the groups are balanced in ability.  Each group chose a country that they would be representing.  For the competition, students would work individually on the ACT questions for 8 minutes, and then have 3 minutes to discuss with their group members.  Upon completion of the 11 minutes, each country would submit one final set of answers.  The medals (gold, silver, broze) are awarded as such:

To add motivation each week, the team that gets a gold medal chooses candy from my candy bucket.  

The weekly medals get converted into points:

Gold = 3 points
Silver = 2 points
Bronze = 1 point

I'm keeping track of all of these scores in a GoogleDoc that is shared with my students on Schoology.  

In the end, the winning country gets to pick from a grab bag of items!

In the early stages of the Winter Olympics, I have found students taking these questions more seriously. I don't necessarily know whether this is due to the ACT date coming up in April, the ability to discuss with peers, or the rewards of candy and grab bag items, but I like that they seem to have a resurgence of motivation. I also find the conversations to be intriguing. Students are defending their opinions as to why they believe a question is correct, some students are explaining to others how to answer a problem, and some are just feeling more confident in their own abilities without second-guessing themselves. It is always really exciting to witness students helping one another out and fighting over correct answers in math problems!

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